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PGA Tour to Open New Franchise in China


On Sunday in Shanghai at the WGC-HSBC Champions, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced that the world's most-populous country will be where the organization next expands.

Finchem said the new PGA China Tour will launch in 2014 with 12 events, each offering a total purse of about $200,000. The number of tournaments is expected to increase over time, with the top money earners receiving Web.com Tour playing cards.

"This is a partnership between the PGA Tour, the China Golf Association and event promoter, China Olympic Sports Industry," Finchem said at the announcement. "This tour will create a credible, professional China tour to develop and advance players to the global stage."

The new circuit joins the other PGA Tour-sponsored groups, the Champions Tour, Web.com Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamérica and PGA Tour Canada. In addition to the PGA Tour, the European Tour, LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour have all added stops in a country with 1.4 billion people and an expanding economy.

"Having the opportunity to grow elite players; thus, accelerate the development of elite players in China, will also translate into the acceleration of the growth of the game in China, which is in all of our interests," added Finchem.

"I think . . . it's clear that today's announcement is a milestone to benefit China golf, PGA Tour, global golf, certainly growth in China, and as a consequence, it is an important day for all of us in the game."

The following is the full transcript of the announcement and a subsequent Q&A involving the principals. Here's what was discussed.

MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us, media friends, and special guests. We look forward to and appreciate your coverage of the final round of the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions. Thank you for taking some time to join us for this special announcement. I'd like to take a moment to recognize our speakers this afternoon, starting on the far right, Mr. Zhang Xiaoning, China Golf Association, Executive Vice President and Secretary General; Mr. Tim Finchem, PGA Tour Commissioner. And Mr. Sun Liping, China Olympic Sports Industry president.

I would also be remiss if I didn't acknowledge and thank Mr. Giles Morgan, HSBC Head of Global on Sponsorship and events, and congratulations on what has already been a great week here. Finally before we begin, a special thanks also to our various guests from the municipal provinces and representatives from many of China's premiere golf courses. We are grateful you could join us today. At this time it is my pleasure to introduce Commissioner Finchem to make the announcement.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: First of all, thank you for joining us this afternoon. Before I go farther, I'd like to say, we appreciate the support for this week from all of you, and those of you in the media, for being here this week and we look forward to what we think is an exciting announcement here this morning. Before I get into that announcement, I would also like to thank HSBC and Giles Morgan for not only their leadership on the sponsorship of this week's World Golf Championships here, but also their commitment to the growth of the game here in China. They are focused on the development of golf among youth in China, and their overall impact on the game here in Asia.

We are pleased to announce today a new partnership that will establish a new professional golf tour in China. This is a partnership between the PGA Tour, the China Golf Association and event promoter, China Olympic Sports Industry, and before I go further, I would like to thank Mr. Zhang and Mr. Sun for their hard work to bring us to this moment. PGA Tour China will begin in 2014 starting with 12 tournaments offering purses of $200,000 throughout the country, and we expect to add tournaments to that number over time. The establishment of PGA Tour China builds on our long time and longstanding relationship with the China Golf Association, and is an extension of our efforts with the China Golf Association to focus on elite player development here in China.

PGA Tour China will provide an opportunity for elite golf professionals from China to compete and develop in a professionally managed tour with consistent quality tournaments. This tour will create a credible, professional China tour to develop and advance players to the global stage. There are a number of advantages to the development of this tour, and I want to specifically reference what I think are the four key advantages going forward. First, it allows more competitive involvement for elite players. This is in addition to the historic opportunities that players have had here at the HSBC through co sponsored events driven by the European Tour, through co sponsored events in partnership with OneAsia and other opportunities, and we know from experience that the more competitive opportunities, the more elite players can be developed.

In addition, the top players on this tour will have the opportunity to advance to the Web.com Tour, which is the pathway to the PGA Tour, and as such, creates a new pathway for China elite players to move to the global stage, as well. Thirdly, over the years, we have found with respect to the PGA Tour and the other four tours we manage, the Champions Tour, the Web.com Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamérica and PGA Tour Canada, that the sustainability of these tours is fundamentally tied to the extent to which these tournaments work in the communities where they are played. And we believe this partnership will allow a focus on the development of PGA Tour China to also be a focus on integrating these tournaments with the communities and markets where we play these events.

Fourth, we know from looking at the history of golf, that the growth of the game is driven first and foremost by the development of elite players who perform at a unique level. Having the opportunity to grow elite players; thus, accelerate the development of elite players in China, will also translate into the acceleration of the growth of the game in China, which is in all of our interests. In addition to all of those reasons, I think in summary, it's clear that today's announcement is a milestone to benefit China golf, PGA Tour, global golf, certainly growth in China, and as a consequence, it is an important day for all of us in the game. And again, I want to thank our partners, COSI and the China Golf Association for the opportunity to work with them to have an impact here in China and an impact that will have global consequences. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Commissioner. At this time, I'd like to introduce Mr. Sun for his comments today on behalf of COSI.

MR. SUN LIPING: Honorable Commissioner and Mr. Giles Morgan, and friends in the media, good afternoon. It is a great honor for China Olympic Sports Industry Company, COSI, to operate and promote the PGA Tour China series. In cooperation with the China Golf Association and PGA Tour, this will be a milestone for golf in China. I firmly believe that this is the key component to continuing the development of the golf industry and increasing golf's popularity in China. As a national tour and with the China Golf Association's strong leadership, the business model of the PGA Tour, this is to become the most competitive platform for Chinese players to develop into world class stars. The China Tour PGA Tour China Series will be the focal point for involvement in China's golf industry and the general public.

During the operations and promotion status, China Olympics Sports Industry Company, COSI, takes on the great mission and social responsibility; namely, to achieve the China Golf Association's goal of promoting and developing golf in China to introduce the management and operation experience and resources of the PGA Tour into China to assist the sponsors in realizing their business objectives and to bring more pleasure and healthy lifestyles to the China people who loves golf. Starting in 2014, China Tour PGA Tour China Series will be held in selected regions and cities where golf has developed, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hainan. The hosting golf courses will conform to the PGA Tour's basic tournament standards representing China's best courses. The selection process and requirements will be open to the public.

We look forward to hearing the thoughts and suggestion from professional golfers, provincial and city golf associations, golf clubs, potential sponsors, golf organizations, media and industry professionals. We appreciate any of your future support and concern. Once again, thank you, everybody.

MODERATOR: And now on behalf of the China Golf Association, I'd like to welcome and introduce Mr. Zhang to say his remarks.

MR. ZHANG XIAONING: Honorable Mr. Finchem, Mr. Sun, and distinguished guests and friends from the media, good afternoon. Today we are honored to be here together and to join hands with the PGA Tour, as well as with the China Golf Association and COSI in this great cooperation for the China Tour PGA Tour China Series. Spending two years in negotiation, finally it's a great honor to have the China Golf Association joining with the PGA Tour in establishing the China Tour PGA Tour China Series, and it is a very cheerful and fantastic day to celebrate. We have raised to a new level with the cooperation between China Golf Association and the PGA Tour in providing more training opportunities for China golfers.

For this great project, we have selected COSI and also Dong Ming Sports to be our operating partners for the China Tour PGA Tour China Series. COSI will be following operation and organization of the PGA Tour in organizing the events and in particular, guaranteeing there will be 12 tournaments held in one year. This partnership between the China Golf Association and PGA Tour will definitely help for the better development of the game of golf in China as well as the golf players in China; particularly, to provide an opportunity for China golfers to stay in their home to compete in much higher level tournaments.

This partnership will definitely add more national and professional flavors to all games being host within the China Tour PGA Tour China Series in China, and to open up more chances for China golfers to participate in the upcoming PGA Tour to a much higher level of tournaments, and for sure, this will provide us for a better future in gaining chances to participate in the Rio Olympics 2016. We have to specially thank Mr. Tim Finchem for his vision in joining hands with the China Golf Association to help establish this great partnership between two parties. And I strongly believe that the establishment of the China Tour PGA Tour China Series will significantly help, as well, the PGA Tour in promoting the events in China. This will certainly be receiving a lot of praise internationally from worldwide golfers in this great partnership between the China Golf Association and PGA Tour to finally enter, officially enter, the land of China.

On behalf of the China Golf Association and many partners, we promise that we will host our China Tour PGA Tour China Series in the most professional way and most international way to keep the high standard of our tournaments. This partnership will be the beginning of China golfers to step outside of China to go into not only the Asian market but also to the international market, and in the future, China Golf Association will try their best to gain more partnerships with different worldwide organizations to help bring more elite tournaments into China. And I do wish all of our professional golfers in China to start training even harder, which will get yourself ready to gain more World Ranking points in the future when the China Tour PGA Tour China Series begins and to help together to raise the bar and to raise the level for China golfers worldwide.

And on behalf of the China Golf Association, we would like to once again thank the PGA Tour in supporting not only our China Tour PGA Tour China Series but also in providing opportunity for our national team players to travel to the United States and to help train for better performance. And last but not least, we will work very hard in continuing for the rapid development of China golf, and hopefully in the very soon future, we'll be seeing China golfers winning on the China Tour PGA Tour China Series and who knows, probably in the future, the PGA Tour, as well. Thank you very much.

Q. Mr. Zhang, would this day have been possible if golf were not included in the Olympic program, and what would be the future of the China tour series if golf does not remain in the program after 2020.

ZHANG XIAONING: Well, the answer is if there's no golf competition in the 2020 Olympics, the partnership will still be established because the mission is trying to bring not only China golfers into the Olympics, but also to be able to bring China golfers into the world class level to showcase the development and the skill set of China golfers and this partnership is a partnership between the professional tours. And since this is also a requirement for players who want to participate in the upcoming Olympics, to have World Ranking points, it would definitely help our China golfers to get into not only high level tournaments, but also as a steppingstone for China golfers to get into the Olympics.

Q. And for Commissioner Finchem, what do you see as the No. 1 benefit to the PGA Tour, and what will be your investment?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think the overall fundamental situation is that the faster the growth, the faster we have growth of the game, impacts every aspect of the sport; certainly the professional side. And because participation in the game drives, it drives viewership, it drives support for events, etc., etc., and they go hand in hand. Historically, the elite player comes first; strong growth comes second, and certainly that's been the case in the United States since Arnold Palmer came along in 1960 and it's been 40, 50 years of continuous growth. So anything we can do to assist the expedition and acceleration of growth is very much in the interest of the professional game, but also golf as a whole.

Q. Just a question for Tim. I applaud this decision today, but wondering if you had any dialogue with the OneAsia Tour or European Tour about this initiative, and should the OneAsia Tour or European Tour be concerned about their staging of tournaments in the future?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, we don't see any effect on either OneAsia or The European Tour's interests in co sanctioning events in certain places. Matter of fact, if we're just talking about China, the extent to which they accelerate those things would be a positive. It is an avenue for elite player participation, as well it's worked well, and it's in addition to it, and I don't think it in any way takes away from those initiatives.

Q. Two questions. First, I understand that they open qualify into the tournaments. Will there be any exemptions for Chinese players or players on other tours, like the OneAsia Tour, etc. Or maybe one of the other gentlemen, you can answer that.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It won't get fully fledged out until the second year. There will be a qualifying school in advance of the start of the year, as there has been in the United States. The qualifying school is open to anybody that wants to enter, not based on nationality. And then there will be eligibility categories that fall from that in terms of how many players off of last year's performance, how many players from that year's Qualifying School, etc. But it is envisioned to be a very open and transparent process available to anyone, and we would anticipate that there will be a fair number of international players who will want to play. We think that's very healthy, because it contributes to the atmosphere you're trying to create by giving these players as close as possible experience to what they would experience at the higher levels of competition.

Q. And secondly, I know that the details haven't all been worked out with the Web.com Tour qualifying, but do you envision it to be somewhat similar to PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latinoamérica.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It's similar if not identical.

Q. At first, you said good afternoon, but it's in the morning session, so it shows the kind of difference between the culture of China and in America. So with these kind of conflicts, cultural conflicts, will be affecting the China Tour PGA Tour China Series?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we don't see any major conflicts. People play golf; it's one of the few sports that is heavily played on every continent on the globe. One of the reasons the International Olympic Committee wanted golf in the Olympics is because it's a universal sport. It's growing on every continent. It doesn't know any bounds based on culture. Some of the best players in the world have come from a variety of cultures historically and golf is always growing. You know, if you're talking more about the business model that's employed, we think the business model we've applied to our tours will work well anywhere, because it's a model based on bringing people together, interfacing with communities, putting on events that, yes, are great competition, but do other things, as well. That certainly is a model that I think would be well received here in China, and certainly these gentlemen agree with that.

Q. Why would you choose this point in time during the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions to announce this great partnership? Does that mean in the future if golfers won on the China Tour PGA Tour China Series, does that mean that they will gain the opportunity to play in the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions?

ZHANG XIAONING: Well, first of all, if you wish that's going to be an opportunity for winners on the China Tour PGA Tour China Series to gain chances to play in the HSBC Champions, for sure, it's going to be a dream, but no, it will not. The China Tour PGA Tour China Series will be like a steppingstone for golfers to get into a much higher level tournament rather than there be a qualification for highest level of tournament participation. Of course, picking this point in time to announce this partnership is because every year, the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions tournament attracts a great deal of media attention, and so it's easier to gather up our media friends for this great announcement. So once again, the upcoming China Tour PGA Tour China Series will be like a qualification-level tour for lower level golfers to step into a higher level to gain more exposure and opportunity for higher standard tournaments.

Q. For Mr. Zhang, since your players in China are showing signs of developing rather faster than those in the west and they don't always necessarily go to college, what will the minimum age be for joining your tour?

ZHANG XIAONING: Well, first of all, since the China Tour PGA Tour China Series will be a professional tournament and professional tour, so the eligibility of ages will still be following and according to the rules for professional tournaments, but to add onto your point about the rapid development of China golfers, and particularly at the youngsters level, they are really well planned with the development of China golfers from the youth level into the Amateur levels and into the pro level. But to me, it feels we are still lacking numbers of pro golfers, high standard, high level golfers in China, so hopefully by having this great plan from the youth to amateur level and to professional levels, it will help China a great deal in providing more pro golfers in China.

Q. How are you going to operate these 12 tournaments in terms of the selection of cities and golf course, and will there be any qualification tournaments going together with the China Tour PGA Tour China Series?

MR. SUN LIPING: There will be some of the more well developed cities to definitely be involved in the upcoming China Tour PGA Tour China Series, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hainan, which those cities already have international level golf courses, so this is the first point of the selection of cities and golf course. Secondly, out of the 12 tournaments to be held next year, some of them may be selected by the sponsorship who is willing to sponsor the tournament to pick a city, and some other tournaments will be picked by golf course. Technically, they will choose one golf course in one golf city except for the capital of China, which is Beijing. There might be more than one golf course to be selected in next year's 12 events. Thirdly, the association, respective golf association in China, might have influence in terms of the city or golf course selection for the upcoming 12 tournaments. But for sure, they are keeping it in a higher international standard and by the recognition of the China Golf Association to COSI, we guarantee it will be hosted in the most professional way as possible.

MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining us this afternoon and enjoy the final round.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.